Artist Fellowships with Artist Input

A local foundation had long supported arts organizations. An artist board member proposed funding annual artist fellowships as a missing piece in the city's arts ecosystem. He organized several convenings of artists and professionals to build out an inclusive, high-impact fellowship program. Artists propose their "next step" artistically, not their next project, a crucial distinction for artists caught in cycles of project funding. Applicants can be emerging through established, and application and reporting requirements are streamlined. The fellowship panel is half artists, and the foundation continues to seek out feedback as the program evolves. The roster of its funded artists is a who's who of the city's artists, and fellowship recipients often travel and learn new skills, things that enrich the (sometimes insular) artist community.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Artists Collaborate to Develop Programs

Artists collaborate in development of programmatic initiatives within a given framework as both students and mentors. With a new residency program in development, a fundamental curriculum of entrepreneurial skills and artist-centered focus topics is developed based on years of programmatic experience and relationships with business professionals and working artists throughout the field. However, a given portion of the focus topics are left TBD until the resident cohort is selected so that the curriculum can be tailor made to address the hopes and needs of the artists in the program.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Authentic Feedback

Throughout 2016, Artist Trust worked to build feedback loops between the organization and artists we serve. In an effort to better understand the needs of individual artists in Washington State, we created a comprehensive survey that asked artists about their biggest successes, challenges, and what supports they need. The feedback received through this survey has informed AT's programming throughout the past year. This year, we have chosen to evolve the survey into a two-pronged data gathering & engagement strategy: an annual census survey and a project we are calling Institutionalizing Informal Conversations, in which we have developed a series of questions for our staff and board to ask artists in casual conversations at events and informal environments. We are collecting this information for storytelling and to gain deeper understanding of Washington's artists' needs.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Inviting Artists to Create Our Agenda

Almost ten years ago now, we were taking a pivot to understand directly what we could do to help the artist community. We held an artist focus group with a really diverse group – old and young, black and white, Latinx, straight and gay. The artists helped us analyze, through a SWOT analysis format, what we could be doing for the community. We took the output of that meeting, put it into a survey, found every creative person in the region we could and invited them out to weigh in on what our agenda should be for the next several years. That’s led to the need for networking amongst colleagues and access to underutilized space, specifically in the urban core. That work has led to what became “Artists Meet-n-Greet” that started to draw upwards of five hundred artists per event. It turned into a combination of gallery collaborations, which has now turned into a roughly forty-venue, once-a-month bus loop that activates creative spaces, artist pop-up spaces and other businesses that want to engage in the arts.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Artist-Designed Art Walk

About eight years ago we took over coordination and promotion for First Friday Art Walk downtown. When we did, we engaged with the artist community and asked for ways in which we could improve the event. And then we did so. And over the next few years, Art Walk kind of blew up. It became a major attraction, and the number of people downtown just went through the roof: there would be tens of thousands of people during the summer months swarming downtown. The result of that was that we heard from the business community that they really loved it, but some of the gallery owners and artists who worked in cooperative galleries and similar spaces struggled to keep up with the glut of people coming through. So we led a two year community conversation with local artists and with business owners of downtown to try to find ways in which we could make First Friday Art Walk more effective. That even meant finding ways to make it a little bit smaller. That process was successful because we were actually able to work with the downtown business alliance to take a major summer event and move it from Friday to Saturday. That way, it didn’t make First Fridays untenable in the terms of the numbers of crowd that was downtown, and it made the day more of an art event.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Seeking Out Artists in Crisis

Jenifer Simon, Director of Programs + Outreach for CERF+, shares how they work to respond to artists' needs in a timely and relevant way.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Engaging with Artists

Creating Trust

It’s one thing when a large organization says, “We want to give grants to artists” and they award applicants with a check. The artists are rewarded for the quality of their art and the strength of their proposal. But the kind of relationship we have with artists requires a different level of trust: we are trying to understand their financial situation so that we can help them get to a better financial place. We’re trying to understand their business practice to help them get to a better place with how they run the business side of their art. That takes a high level of trust and that kind of trust is challenging to build in any circumstance, and especially challenging when you are at a distance from where the people you serve are living.

We’ve gotten around that in a couple of ways. When we first began our program nine years ago, we only worked locally. So we had several years of experience working in our local region. The trust issue was something we had to deal with, we had more personal connections and the ability to meet with people more easily one-on-one. As we’ve expanded state-wide and into other states we’ve been able to rely on our growing reputation and the artists who vouch for us and recommend our services to their friends and acquaintances. The circle of trust has grown.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Engaging with Artists

We Value Artist Input

Another thing that we’re really careful about is a lot of our programming, like with the arts exhibitions that we do at the community center for the arts, we don’t just employ a curator to choose what shows that we’re going to do. We have an advisory council that’s made up of local artists, and we value their input on deciding what shows, what exhibitions and what art programming is going to best serve the local community and also consider what artists are doing locally. A group will sit down for about a half-day meeting and they will review concepts, both from outside the organization and from within, and make determinations about what shows we should be planning in 2019, 2020 and beyond. It has been really great to see many of the artists step into that role and share ownership of the organization and its programs.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Engaging with Artists

Working with Artists to Shape Our Conference

There were two components to our state-wide convening, where we worked with artists from all across the state to really shape our conference. One was a leadership development program on day one where we brought these artists together. There was really lively and intense, vibrant, dynamic conversation. Then, on the second day, in the larger convening, it included cross-sector people and arts organizations and we had those individual artists present their work in a “Pecha kucha” format. Being able to convene so many art sector people in the same room at the same time, the impact of that is really felt years later and people refer back to those moments of, “Yeah, I found out about that artist because of this event and the ideas that we were exploring.” So, the engagement is really dynamic. A large team of artists were provided an opportunity to show their work with more than two hundred people across the state. And then there were also parts of that conference where we had an additional team of artists that were doing hands-on work with conference attendees at a different time. So, there was actually a making component, in which the engagement was really intense and exciting.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Engaging with Artists

Removing Obstacles to Artists Thriving

Jenifer Simon, Director of Programs + Outreach for CERF+, shares what motivates her in working to support artists.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Engaging with Artists

Good Relationship with Artist Cooperative

There is a good relationship between the foundation and the artists in the cooperative. They’ve managed to create a wonderful and successful governance structure where they have a steering committee with rotating officers and committee chairs. We feel like it is such a win-win. They have gained this community of artists that they are a part of, they get income for their work and the affiliation with us, and they meet new clients with whom they may be able to have an ongoing relationship. And that is separate from the co-op with people who may purchase their work or commission their work. This way, people can see artists working onsite and meet artists whose work is on sale. It lets people know what artists are up to, and it gives artists agency in the community.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Engaging with Artists

Partners Surprised at the Value Artists Bring

Each year we stage a big arts fair in our town. And, I’ve got no less than three artists that sit on our planning and implementation committee. These are artists who are regular participants in this fair, as well as a number of other fairs in the region. So, they welcomed the opportunity to be involved at this level, and they’ve been successful and significant contributors to the process in being able to inform us of the artist perspective. At something like an arts fair, it is highly important for the planners to be able to consider this side. This has been an excellent experience in terms of working with the artists on the committee. They’ve been very helpful. To be honest, though, our partners seemed quite surprised at the value artists are bringing to the table. They’ve asked, “Is this a typical experience in working with artists?” I’m glad to share that it is. And to encourage our partners to appreciate the willingness of these artists to lend their expertise and knowledge to help us make the fair bigger and better.

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What It Means to Struggle as an Artist

Artist Andee Rudloff reflects on the many ways that artists thrive and struggle, considering different ways of defining success ranging from monetary to creative fulfillment.

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Arts Festival with No Artist Engagement

A new performing arts festival launched with no artist leadership and without consulting artists. During the first season, there were extensive problems with production, communication, and marketing; many were "disastrous" from the artists' point of view. No effort was made to assess or post-mortem the first year's issues.

Unaware of the issues, and with no mechanism for assessment other than the festival's self-reporting, foundations continued funding the festival. Artists who attempted to communicate concerns to the festival and to funders were brushed off as complainers. Artists began to tell one another: stay away from this festival

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

Workshops without Artist Input

After a months-long program hiatus and staff turnover, the new education manager attempted to solicit input from artists about their professional development needs using an online survey. Very few artists completed the short questionnaire and many responses were too broad to be of much use, so the education manager created a season of workshops without a strong sense of artists' perspectives. These workshops were severely under-attended, indicating the focus topics were not of interest or need for local artist community.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

Relentless Artist

An artist working in our city is very interested in green/blue infrastructure issues at the city and neighborhood level. This is tied into her creative work to recast fiber as an urban, sustainable and people of color practice. She was relentless in finding out the information about meetings (which are not transparently posted on the city's website), attended meetings and ultimately worked her way on to the task force. The task force now sees the benefit of including artists in their work - but there is no mechanism for this to become the norm for the way the city thinks about constituting its community taskforces, services, planning and departments across the board.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

We Assumed the Artists Were Just Being Needy

Our most unsuccessful program was our attempt to give artists monies to create their own open studio tours in their own neighborhoods. They hated that idea. They really did not want to be responsible for organizing an open studio tour or for creating advertising materials and signage. To us, they felt needy. We believed they wanted somebody else to put a tour together that they could just pop into. After reflecting on the experience, we hope to start a dialogue to learn more about how we can successfully partner with our local artists, rather than basing our actions off assumptions.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

A Time When It Was Perilous to Be an Artist

Lisa Cordes, Director of Artist Services and Artist INC at the Mid-America Arts Alliance, reflects on a time when it was perilous to be an artist and shares her hope for the possibilities of changing that script.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists